Having worked to develop school linking both within the UK and internationally for many years,
when I was offered the challenge of leading this small organisation called A Partner in Education:
www.apartnerineducation.org I had to think long and hard about how I might do this differently.
The brief was to enhance the quality of education in Rwanda by drawing on international best
practice. How could I leverage this without falling into the age old trap of colonial thinking? So
here is our challenge…and some tentative steps towards a new model of what I prefer to call
We are called A Partner in Education because everything we do is in partnership. We act as a
catalyst for change on the ground in Rwanda and as an agent for leveraging support here in the
UK. It is a two-way process, responding to local need and aspiration, continually evaluating the
process of developing productive and equitable partnerships…..
We work in partnership with the Rwandan government – which is ambitious in aiming for high
quality education for all – bring in international expertise to support high quality teaching, model
best practice and liaise with teacher training institutions to provide practical placements and CPD.
We work in partnership with the larger INGOs: VSO, Unicef and Save the Children, as well as
others, to offer training to teachers and provide models of best practice in line with the
government’s goals. While the larger organisations roll out mass training across the country, we
are turning the model on its head, developing centres of excellence for teachers to experience
best practice first hand by working alongside Rwandan teachers who receive ongoing in-house
CPD from international facilitators who work hard to understand the local context and at the same
time share their own ongoing learning.
And because we are small, we can be agile and responsive, focussing on detail and developing
strong partnerships also in the UK, with schools and organisations that can offer expertise and at
the same time are genuinely keen to engage with the complexity of life in rapidly changing
Rwanda. We are working hard to try to avoid the common pitfalls of international ‘linking’ and
while I’m sure we won’t get it all right, all our partnerships are very carefully thought through
before any contact is developed between staff or students and we are putting a three-year
evaluation framework in place to scrutinise our methodology of change.
We are delighted to be working closely with Wroxham Transformative Learning Alliance
(www.wroxhamtla.org.uk) in shaping an ethos of ‘learning without limits’ in Rwanda. This is such an
exciting time for a country like Rwanda, where there is determination not to ‘catch up’ with the
‘developed’ world, but to redefine itself with dignity and a passion to succeed. It is an honour to
be part of that journey and frequently makes me question where is ‘developed’ and where is
‘developing’? What does this mean in 2015? It certainly isn’t a one way process or a simple one, as
the world shifts continually and technology redefines our perspectives and our relationships.
A Partner in Education would love to hear from other members of the Think Global Network, to
share ideas and other examples of innovative practice in international collaboration in education.
We are not linking schools. We are facilitating conversations and developing partnerships; trying
to see if this leads us to a meaningful and respectful form of communication, where stereotypes
are seriously challenged, expectations are well managed and the potential for real change and
mutual growth is nurtured. If any of this speaks to you, we would love to hear from you!